Hannah Palmer Egan
With a growing number of farmers growing grain in Vermont, it's becoming easier to access locavore staples such as flour and cornmeal. Charlotte's Nitty Gritty Grain Co.
offers hybrid yellow cornmeal, as well as meal milled from its heirloom Wapsie Valley corn, which is somewhat richer in protein and minerals and coarser in texture. At Butterworks Farm
in Westfield, Anne and Jack Lazor's Early Riser meal is similarly nutritious.
Find these and others in the baking or bulk-foods sections of your local market or co-op. In addition, smaller farms sometimes offer cornmeal at farmers markets, so keep an eye out next time you go.
All of these will work well for cornbread — or, should you feel so inclined, corndogs!
As with so many Farmers Market Kitchen recipes, I used ingredients from my garden. I grew seven varieties of milling corn last summer, and the meal for my corndogs is from Abenaki flint corn. It's similar to Early Riser, though the Lazors' is probably nicer than mine, as they've been selecting it for quality for decades. I actually prefer the flavor of other varieties I grew, and I probably won't grow the Abenaki again. But its crunchy texture makes it a great candidate for fry batter.
And who doesn't love a good corndog on a Sunday afternoon?
Corndogs are actually really easy to make. You could start with dogs from Maple Wind Farm, Vermont Smoke & Cure
or McKenzie Country Classics
, among other locals.
For the batter, I made a few tweaks to Jeanne Owen's corn bread, which appears in James Beard's American Cookery.
I added a half cup of flour and swapped maple syrup for sugar.
Hannah Palmer Egan
Real dog, meet corndogs
Makes up to 16 corndogs
For the batter:
- 8 hotdogs
- 8 popsicle sticks or 6-inch wooden skewers
- 7-8 cups sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 cup sifted flour
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons baking powder
- 3 eggs, beaten smooth
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- Skewer the hotdogs so the "handle" sticks out 2-3 inches from the base of the dog. Set in freezer to cool while you prep the other stuff — having very cold dogs helps the batter to stick.
- Heat oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat. If you don't have a deep-fat thermometer (or a countertop deep-fryer with a thermostat) you should get one before you make this. They're available at most kitchen-supply stores or online.
- Make the batter: Sift drys together in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and blend into drys with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir maple into milk and blend into corn mixture, then add cream, then butter.
- The batter should be thick enough to form a quarter- to half-inch coating on one of your hotdogs. (Yes, it'll want to glob off. But it should stick well enough that you can transfer coated dog from batter-dunk to hot oil). If your batter is too thin, blend in more flour and cornmeal — one tablespoon each at a time — until it's right.
- Pour batter into a tall quart container or some other vessel long enough to accommodate hotdog dunking.
- Check oil temp: You want it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, so heat or cool as necessary. When the temperature is right, remove dogs from freezer, dunk in batter (do this immediately next to fry station), drop into hot oil over medium-low flame and fry 10-20 seconds each until golden brown.
- Place on paper bags to absorb some of the oil, and serve hot.
- You can also use the batter to bread and fry other stuff: pickles, mac-and-cheese bites, mushrooms, squash pieces — you name it!
Once you've fried to your heart's content, you can make the leftover batter into skillet cornbread!
- Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven hits the temp, remove the skillet and add a pat of butter, bacon grease or shortening and spread it around to coat.
- Pour batter in and bake 10-20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with butter and more maple syrup.